This is a little story I wrote about hitchhiking in Portugal back in February. At the time I didn’t care to post it because I didn’t really think it was all that interesting of a read. Tonight I’ve decided to go ahead and post it because I’ve told the story of our little adventure in the south of Portugal several times lately. It’s pretty amazing how much different things are now. It feels like a whole lifetime separates this moment from the one I had in mind when I first penned this anecdote. I guess I’m experiencing a moment of nostalgia. I have a problem with doing that more often than I should.
By the way, if you’ve not read the February 26 post, “Sleeping With Knives,” I would say you’ve missed one of our best entries.
At no point did I ever consider that we would need to walk this far carrying all of our gear. Suddenly, I wish I had come ill-prepared for our journey so as to not be so weighed down by all this stuff. Do I really need a bedroll? A first aid kit? When am I going to use these?
I guess I said that about the headlamp too…
“Only, 10 more kilometers to go!”
I think that at this point, Nathan is losing some of his cheerfulness. He had more of a spring in his step earlier. He’s done this before but I think he’s more worried about me.
It’s not that I’m not physically up to the challenge of hiking the entire 17 kilometers from the “farm” to the village. We have been told that hitchhiking in Portugal is easy. We’ll walk for a while and get a ride into town.
It’s nice out too.
How long have we been walking anyhow? An hour? I don’t want to look at my watch. The last time “an hour” had passed in my mind, a grand total of 10 minutes had actually passed in the real world.
Nathan is giving me advice about “thumbing” our way into town.
“Always wave and smile, even if they don’t slow down. We have to show ourselves, make our case, and thank them for their time in the span of about 3 seconds. You know how to do this. You’ve given presentations before.”
I certainly have the ability to work up a smile, even though my feet are starting to hurt a bit. I’m fairly relieved to be moving, even if only on foot, toward buildings, people, food, and wifi. I whistle the first few notes of Dixie before realizing what I’m doing. Why does that song always get stuck in my head? I decide that the version in my head is the Union Army version, popularized by Tennessee Earnie Ford:
In Dixie-Land where men are chattel,
Union boys will win the battle!
“Let’s stop and rest here for a bit, ” Nathan suggests.
Fantastic. Yes. Let’s please do that. I can hike in Doc Martins, but I don’t want to. I feel as though I shouldn’t have to. This is all very stupid. I’m not mad at Nathan for the spot we’re in though. I could have, at any point before we arrived, made an argument to not go to that place. If only we had met Peter on our way in instead of our way out…
Oh, Peter. I wonder what it was you really have experienced. You called them neo-Nazis. I guess I just don’t know about that. One person there had an Antifa patch on a jacket. The problem is that we don’t actualy know anything at all. We just got a really bad impression. Peter’s story helped us both feel that we were on to something. He seemed so earnest. There was an incredibly harsh experience or two on display in his eyes. Perhaps it was all from before he arrived in this place. Perhaps the various trials and tribulations of his life had blended together in his mind.
Whatever the case may have been, and we will never really know, we already had no intention of sticking around well before he pleaded with us to leave.
“What was the name of Peter’s friend?” Nathan stops and scans the horizon. I remind him of the name we’ve been given.
“I don’t think he’s around.”
Well, who the hell knows? We’ve only been walking for like 90 hours. Maybe we’ll see him 180 hours in…
“Ready to stop again?” This time it’s my suggestion.
Why rush? We’re on a country road leading to a small village which, at this rate, probably will be closed up and blacked out by the time we arrive.
Actually, it’s only just now 9:00 in the morning.
I kick a rock. Another car passes. I put my jacket back on. It’s cold when you’re not walking up or down a hill carrying one of these enormous backpacks.
Nathan tells a story about hopping a train to get some bottles of water. Oh, water! Luckily we thought to fill our bottles before we left the place. Luckily they had jugs of purified water. I don’t know if I would want to drink any other water from that place unless maybe I saw it boiling first, but then I guess it would be boiling over a fire started with used toilet paper.
I used to have a traveler friend, an “anarcho-primitivist” who would poke fun at me for all of my “bourgeois hang-ups.” Yes, I prefer to shower every day. I like to read the news. I think condoms were an ingenious and incredibly useful invention. Mister 1%, that’s me!
We tell stories and complain to each other but mostly we walk in silence. There’s a lot of time to think. In particular, I’m thinking about the concept of Saudade. This is a word I learned back in Porto. It refers to the deeply melancholic feeling of longing for someone or something that you know is gone forever.
Just on the horizon, my eyes behold a most beautiful sight. I take out my iPhone to try to capture this glorious moment. I’ll have difficulty finding words to match the emotions spouting from within me like cool, refreshing water from a hydrant in the street, opened on a hot summer day to provide relief from the blistering summer heat.
It’s the village.